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Writings on Motherhood, Judaism, and Happily-Ever-Afters

Melissa CohenAuthor Archives

Merry Sunshine

All is not delightful this morning. Don’t get me wrong, it’s entirely my fault. Although I think if Lizzie would EAT HER STUPID MEATBALLS I’d feel better about a lot of things. Social distancing, self-isolating, whatever it is that I’m doing is not fun. And it’s getting harder and harder to remain cheerful and upbeat all the time. We’re coming up on two weeks (or is it three? Maybe just one? I’ll lost all sense of time), and I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the whole routine of bopping around the house, Marc, me and the three kids. And as soon as I form that thought, I start to beat myself up because we’re all healthy – and I feel this overwhelming sense of anxiety all the time. Will we get sick? Please God, let this just be something that we watch – the economic collapse, strangers getting sick and dying, but not have it actually happen to us.

Lizzie is recovering from lyme disease, and the treatement is 4 pills, 2x a day for thirty days. She hates them, and is now refusing to eat them. I’m not amused.

I read today that in NY, the doctors are recommending, literally, that you not leave your house. No walks. And we’re about a week, maybe, behind them.

I have to go grocery shopping today. I have a complicated relationship with spending money, and generally have developed a work around where I shop often but for very little at any one time. In addition to panicking about going out shopping today, I also have a low level fear of spending a lot of money in the trip.

Day 7

It’s getting real now. The news is reporting more and more on the people who are dying, and the panic is low-level but constant. School has officially been cancelled through May 7, and I’m sure they won’t go back this year at all.

I go back and forth between thinking that this is all being blown out of proportion, and knowing that I’m wrong. Knowing it’s a survival mechanism so that I don’t descend into full blown, non-stop panic, but somehow manage to maintain some semblance of normalacy for the kids.

Oddly enough, it’s possible that, as long as we stay healthy, we’ll emerge from this financially okay. We qualify for unemployment and emergency SNAP benefits, and I think they ended up passing the government stimulus package. But the reality is that it’s all still up in the air, and the last time we were on unemployment, it took nearly four months for it to start, so until we start getting checks, I’m operating under the impression that we have no income. Which, as you can imagine, does not improve my overall sense of impending doom.

We’re all healthy. Marc is probably at the highest risk, because he’s 50 and has diabetes. But he’s in good health, and works out all the time. Plus, we really go NOWHERE. I hit up the grocery store once or twice a week for perishables and milk, but other than that, we go for a lot of walks, and read, watch too much television and crochet. The kids are all holding it together. Sam panics at night, and has basically stopped sleeping thru the night altogether, which is not great. Jessie is still throwing herself into AP prep, and Julie is spending far too much time on tiktock and reading her way thru the Harry Potter series.

But we’re waiting. Waiting until people start dying, people we know, and the lock downs get more intense. Waiting until the warm weather comes, and praying that things get better.


Days are merging into each other. Each day is the same as the one before, with nothing to distinguish them. Nobody is going to school, nobody is going to work. We’re all here, all the time, going nowhere, and literally no plans for the future. Every three or four days, I venture out, go to the store, check for toilet paper (there isn’t any), look for fresh meat (there isn’t any of that either). I buy cereal and fresh fruit and vegetables, coffee and milk and cream and bread. Then I come back home, and try to figure out what to do next.

The girls have basically had everything cancelled. All of Jessie’s exams, SATs and AP test – they’re either cancelled or adjusted to a shorter, on-line version. The MCAS have been cancelled – which throws Julie’s acceptance into the GSA program I was hoping to get her into up in the air. Sam’s IEP is put on hold, so he’s not getting any services for vision loss any time soon.

We’re just at home. Waiting. I’m not sure if we’re waiting for people we love to die, for one of us to get it and play the odds that the five of us won’t get seriously ill because we’re all pretty healthy to start off. Waiting for the world to start back up, to buy our house, to start our lives again.

Day 3

Is it Day 3? I suppose if you start counting by the day we found out that Marc would be furloughed, it would be Day 3. Or it could be Day 7, because it was a week ago that the girls had school cancelled for the first day. You could also make a compelling argument that today should be Day 1 – since we spent most of yesterday returning work equipment and filing for unemployment. Either way – it feels like it’s been forever. And also like it’s never going to end.

News reports are terrifying, and conversations with Marc are even worse. We had a really grim talk yesterday about who might survive this – which older relative would be healthy enough to catch the virus and not get seriously sick. Going outside is just scary now – I went to Walmart to get some stuff, because we were already out returning work stuff and I want to minimize the amount of time I spend out in the world, and I saw an older woman in the produce section. She was carrying oxygen with the little nose prongs and she coughed – and I immediately thought “well, you’re going to die.” Then I was horrified, both by my immediate reaction and the next thought which was that I hoped she didn’t cough close enough to me for me to catch it.

I came home, threw all my clothes into a washing machine with super hto water, and took a shower.

I’m kind of a mess. I mean, I’m trying to hold it all together. Reminding the kids that we’re FINE. That they don’t have to worry about money, that the dog will be okay. That the world will start again. What I’m not saying is that people are going to die. We’re going to lose people we love in this. It’s the backdrop to everything I’m doing all the time.

Better day

It’s not yet 7:30, so maybe I’m jumping the gun, but the antibiotics are starting to work and Lizzie was able to walk outside to go pee last night. She was essentially paralyzed for a few days, and it was devastating. I’m so relieved.

Kids are struggling still. I’m waiting for my poor Jessie to fall apart. She’s been working – still, always. So much working. Her two least favorite classes haven’t assigned anything, so she’s been doing a deep dive on all of the subjects she loves. We rearranged her bedroom so that she has her own little desk area and she’s been in there all day, every day. She comes out every few hours, dances around with us, knits and chats and then goes back in.

My Sam is stressed. All the time. My Sammy is stressed. He is both my easiest and toughest kid, when it comes to emotional equilibrium. He’s completely chill and fine, unless he’s not. And yesterday afternoon, he was not. Between his dad getting laid off, and the dog not being able to move, it just all billowed up on him and he fell apart. But in classic Sam style, he waited until after he finished his math quiz, and then sobbed for ten minutes because he didn’t feel good. I rubbed his hair, soothed and then got him toast and after that, he seemed more stable. He was up all night the previous night, texting me frantic messages about worrying about money and the dog, but last night, the last text came in around quarter of eleven, and I’m hoping he slept the rest of the night.

Julie is probably having the toughest time. She likes school more than the other two do. Jessie likes the academics, but the in person experience often leaves her miserable. Julie likes the academics and loves her friends. She’s just happier in school. She likes the structure, the socialization, and being stuck at home with older siblings and a mother who’s incredibly laid back is challenging for her. Marc is starting her on a fitness routine, and yesterday, I laid out her whole day schedule and that really helped. She seemed to be more focused and content yesterday.

My poor Marc is a mess too. Not a mess, but this is hard. Neither of us ever wanted to be back here, worrying about money and how to fill his days. I love him so much, and as worried as I am, I’m also just straight up sad that he’s going through this. I think we’ll be okay – and honestly, our financial situation is going to really mirror his stress level. If we can get through this with a minimum of set back, keep up with our bills and come out the other side – I think he’ll be okay.

As for me, I’m waffling between terror, falling apart and calm. I worry all the time about people getting sick, about financial doom, about how the kids and Marc are handling it. But my dog is up and walking, and we’re all healthy and whole. We made it through a psuedo tumor and vision loss with NO money. We can handle this.


Day Three of our forced Coronavirus isolation. It’s not going well.

Marc got laid off, or furloughed yesterday. Not entirely sure what the difference is, other than they really like him and want to hire him back, just as soon as they can. It’s really just a nicer way to lay someone off. The end result is the same. He’s not getting paid anymore.

Then my LizzieBeth got lyme disease. She’s basically lame and incapable of walking and it’s freaking me out all the time. You know that old theory that keeps getting trotted out whenever something bad happens? Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In my case, whatever doesn’t kill me just leaves me broken, weak and incapable of seeing one of my babies suffer. Even when that baby is a dog, who can’t tell me what hurts, and doesn’t understand me when I assure her she’ll get better. I’m hoping to God she will. Most dogs do really well on the antibiotics, but it can take a few days. We’re 24 hours in, and she’s a hot mess. Consequently, we’re all a hot mess along with her.

The girls are out of school at least until the beginning of March, but other states have already announced that they’re closing until September. Nobody really knows what’s happening or when it’s going to get better, and we’re all just waiting for people to start getting sick and dying. I don’t know anyone who’s been diagnosed yet, nor anyone who’s actually been able to be tested. But I can’t stop myself from overdosing on the news, hoping for some sort of wisdom that’ll get me through.

There is no wisdom. Nobody knows. I can look at countries like Italy and South Korea and Spain, but all that does is terrify me. There’s the whole apocolypse thing going on, thinking that society is going to fall apart, the government (which I’m none too fond of to begin with….) is going to self-destruct (or because they’re all so old, they’ll catch it and die)…. then there’s the slightly abstract worry – will they have MCAS this year? Will Jessie be able to work her fellowship, or work at Tougas again this summer? Will I be homeschooling forever? And then there’s the more immediate panic-inducing worry – will my mother get sick? Will my in-laws? Are they strong enough to make it through this? Will Marc’s job start back up? We had just barely clawed ourselves out of financial ruin – and it was LOVELY. Suddenly, we’re back to a place where I’m afraid to buy a gallon of milk, and worrying about how to pay the rent.

January Updates

It’s not yet 9:00 pm, and all three of my kids are in bed, asleep. I literally don’t think this has happened since Sam was born. Jessie was a more traditional baby/toddler. She went to bed, even if it took me an hour of singing and stories and rubbing her back, and she’d end up in my bed sometime in the middle of the night. The other two – they both stayed up late, and nursed to sleep around 10 or 10:30.

But somehow, all the stars aligned, and all three of my kids (at almost 17, 13 and 9) are all asleep, in bed, and it’s still before 9:00. Jessie has what I’m hoping to God isn’t the flu, and went to bed at 4:00 this afternoon. Her fever is creeping up but it’s still technically low-grade, but she’s achy and exhausted and miserable. Sam was up most of last night, because he’s naturally a night owl and his fan was broken so he was hot and unhappy. But in classic Sam-style, he didn’t want to bother me, so he just laid awake, hot and miserable. He woke up this morning, made it all the way through the day, and was so tired, I tucked him in with a repaired fan by 8:30 and he’s out cold. Julianna, my baby, would happily stay up until 9 or 9:30, but I was hard-core focused, and got her actually in to her jammies and in bed on time.

And so I’m here, husband still at work, dishes done, laundry done, (that’s a lie, the laundry is never done), but I’m at a loss. I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to teach Sam about graphing linear equations, which is a lot harder than you’d think, because I’m not entirely sure myself. Because his vision is so unpredictable, and I’m never entirely sure what he can see or what he can’t, and also because, hello, I’m not a math teacher, I didn’t know that graphing would be a problem. I didn’t even know that graphing would be the next logical step after learning the whole y=mx+b situation.

His poor math teacher is also befuddled and nobody seems to know how to teach him. The worst part is that the only one who seems to know what to do is me – and I know for sure that I don’t really have any idea, other than I’m really good at googling “how to teach graphing linear equations low vision.” It turns out that there’s a whole system for getting equipment, and federal funds put aside to purchase it – but the only way to get it is with a TVI – which he doesn’t happen to have at the moment.

Even with all the complications – I know that TECCA is far and away the best educational situation we’ve had for him, and we were, in the end, able to jury-rig some sort of graph situation, even if he couldn’t see it all the well. He understands the concept of it, and I’m just hoping that’s enough. At least until we get a TVI, get the assessments done, get the equipment he needs and can play catch up.

Random January Thoughts

December was a hot mess of snow storms all over the place, but January has been delightfully snow-free. I could get used to spring for my birthday.

Sam and I are plowing through Connections Academy. We’re still struggling with IEP accommodations, but he’s getting a fantastic education, and that’s what matters.

Fourth grade girls haven’t gotten any less complicated since Jessie was there. It’s slightly easier with Julie, because Julie’s got a lot of friends and seems overall happier at the school, but the politics and intricate relationships seem to really kick into overdrive in fourth grade.

I’m already dreading Jessie going away to college. Excited for her, sure, but mostly terrified of how to pay for it, and how to emotionally handle my baby girl living somewhere other than with me.

2018 – A retrospective

It was a mostly good year. Dominated in a lot of ways around concerns about Sam’s education, and climaxed in a dramatic month-long disaster at Forest Grove, but we ended up in such a good place that it’s hard to look back on it and not feel good about how it all turned out.

Jessie ended sophomore year and kicked off junior year, got her first real job, first internship and her learners permit. We started looking at colleges. There was a whole lot of new things going on – and I’m incredibly aware that this is the last full year that I’ll have her living at home with me.

Sam made some huge strides in conquering the anxiety and taking control of his life. Choosing to take solid steps towards a formal education, going through the eval process and starting to take classes at the local elementary school and transitioning to full time at the junior high – these are goals that seemed so far beyond what I was hoping for – and he kicked ass at every one. Even though Forest Grove was a hot mess for him, he learned real skills about advocating for himself, pushing thru adversity and recognizing when one thing doesn’t work out, we don’t give up on the goal, we just find another way to meet it. He’s thriving in on-line school, it’s a much, much better fit for him.

My Julianna Ruth almost seems to have grown up the most, because she really, really came into herself this year. She started off third grade in a class with none of her close friends and ended up growing up so much. She’s much more relaxed and comfortable now, has a huge group of friends that mix across all groups, and academically, she’s at the head of her class. She’s a brilliant reader, has memorized her multiplication tables and is just doing so well, across the board.

I’m not saying that everything is always blissful. Jessie’s got chronic migraines and likes us all to suffer along with her, Sam spends WAY too much time in his room watching Youtube, and Julianna can fuss like there’s no tomorrow. But overall, they’re all NORMAL problems. They’re all thriving academically (and it’s been literally years since I could say that). They’re all healthy (with the obvious exception of the constant headaches) and they’re all relatively, most days, reasonably happy.

2018 was mostly a win.

Shabbat Dinner

We had to shift things around a little this year. With both Lilli and Sarah off at college, suddenly our Shabbats seemed empty. Marc’s job seemed to go later and later, and it seemed like a lot of work and not very much fun at all. Jessie’s got misophonia, so sitting around the table listening to everyone eat makes her crazy, and Sam’s prone to hanging with us for a half hour or so, eating bread and then beating a quick retreat to his bedroom. Which leaves Marc, Julie and I staring at each other, and then a giant pile of dishes for me to do on Saturday.

We started a new tradition a few months ago – I call it “take out Shabbat.” It’s probably a wash, cost wise, but saves me a ton of time. I let the kids order from wherever, and then swoop through Worcester, picking it all up. Then we hang out in the living room, I read, the girls watch movies and Sam usually plays on his iPad. Marc hangs out in the dining room, alternately listening to music or catching up on work. It’s still family time, it’s still special… it’s just different. I’m sure it’ll change again in a few years when Jessie goes off to college. And it’ll change again if anyone moves back home after college, or shift into something else.

But there are a few times a year, during the school year, when the girls come home, and we’re able to have the kind of Shabbat dinner we’ve had for years. And it just occurred to me that I have NO idea where the candleholders are.